Since we’ve arrived, most of our excursions have been inside the city of Seoul. Planning day trips to other locations can be expensive. And overall, it just requires more work. That being said, we finally got away from Seoul a few weeks ago to see one of the biggest attractions just outside the city: the magical getaway, Nami Island.
What Is a “Micronation”? What Is Namiseom?
Namiseom Island (also called the Naminara Republic) declared itself as a nation back in 2006, with its main export being “imagination.” As you might guess, the island cares about whimsy, the environment, and children. This “micronation” (a culture within a greater culture) is partners with organizations like UNICEF or UNESCO to raise support for environmentalism and eco-friendly energy. In line with this thought, all of the bottles and recyclable materials on the island are reused and they have many installations of art that come from these products. The island, overall, is a fun place to relax, connect back to nature, and, if you like k-dramas, relive your favorite scenes from such popular series as Winter Sonata, which filmed on different areas of the island. Plus, people love to go on dates here.
Getting to Namiseom Island
To get there, you can take a few different routes. We ended up taking the subway since it was cheaper, and it took about 1.5 hours for us to get to Gapyeong Station. The ride there was long, but we jammed out to music and got to see the rollicking mountains pass us by. Now, jumping ahead, for Nami Island being so famous in Chuncheon, it was kind of ridiculous how little direction we were given once we exited the station — we wandered in circles trying to decide if we could walk to the wharf or if we had to take the bus. After a frustrating 10 minutes, we just walked.
There are two ways to enter Nami Island, but no matter which way you go, you must first receive a “visa” (aka, your ticket); then you can decide if you want to take the 5-minute ferry ride or if you want to use the quicker zipline. While I wanted to do the zipline pretty bad, it was an expense I didn’t care to afford at 38,000 won (~USD 34). Plus, while the line for the ferry looked excruciatingly long (it stretched back so far from the entrance!) it actually moved pretty quickly since two ferries were in operation. We only waited perhaps 15 minutes to get on the boat, and the ride over was pleasant.
Namiseom Is a Natural Dreamland
The island itself was full of all the whimsy it promised. Wildlife, from squirrels to chipmunks to even penned-off ostriches, could be seen across the island. People cavorted with their families or friends, threw fall leaves into the air, and took perhaps too many dramatic pictures, as is the Korean custom. Areas of the island are divided into what type of trees are found there. You could walk along a metasequoia walkway or down the lane of ginkgo trees, and the leaves were in full, vibrant gold and red, making it quite beautiful.
You Have to Eat Dak Galbi When in Chuncheon
Walking through the abundance of trees was nice, but we had had a long afternoon without lunch yet, so we stopped at one of the restaurants before we continued further. Danny had heard that a place called Seomhyanggi was good, so we decided to eat there; plus, we found out that dak galbi is famous in Chuncheon, so we had to eat it. We got 숯불 닭갈비, which is a charcoal-cooked marinated chicken with peppers, garlic, and other veggies that you then grab with a piece of lettuce, basically. Look at the picture to see what I mean. Danny grilled our chicken and we were ready to eat! Thanks chef!
The Strange Statuary on Nami Island
If someone asked what one thing I remember most about Nami Island, though, it wouldn’t be the food. It’d be the statues. And one stood out against all the rest. Koreans kept rubbing the butt of this breastfeeding child. The mother is supposed to represent China’s great rivers. Other fertility statues cover the island, making you question how child-friendly this island actually is! The thing is, Korean culture has different modesty standards than American culture does. People commonly go to the sauna with their families starting when they are young, probably reinforcing this cultural norm. But for Danny and me, it made for a great chuckle. Also, we found the girl from The Ring! No worries, no one died, but one child got awfully close.
Overall, it was a nice getaway for an afternoon. It was getting a bit chilly and dark by evening so we headed back to the ferry. On our walk, globe lanterns and lights strung through trees or trellises made the night magical. We finally got back to the ferry, waited around for a bit, and made our way back across the river. We had to make sure not to fall asleep on the subway before arriving in Seoul, but somehow we managed.
If you are ever free on a fall day, make sure to check Nami Island out. Its scenery alone is a stand-out from rumble and bustle of city life. If you have more time than we did, you can check out Petite France nearby; it’s an artificial French village that amazes spectators every year with its exported culture from Europe. If you plan it well, you’ll even have time to visit The Garden of Morning Calm. This area boasts lights during the winter and beautiful flowers other times of the year. I highly recommend this area for getting lost in nature. Hopefully, we can return to this area again to check out those other areas, too.
What About You?
Areas like these have been popping up all over the world, dedicated to curiosity, nature, and beauty. Have you been to one? What do you like about walking through nature and just enjoying a fall day? Let me know your favorite memories below!